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  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
California Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is shown in her district office earlier this month.
California Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is shown in her district office earlier this month. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As she became the new leader of the California Senate, Toni Atkins used her remarks after taking the oath of office as Senate president pro tem to make a direct promise to change the culture of the statehouse when it comes to workplace behavior.

“True culture change — holding ourselves to a higher standard — requires the active, everyday enlightened participation of every person who works in and around this Capitol,” Atkins (D-San Diego) said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “And I pledge to you, that will be our mission and our mandate.”

Atkins, 55, was elected on a unanimous vote of the Senate to succeed the former leader, Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who is termed out this fall. She becomes the first person since 1871 to have served both as leader of the Senate and as speaker of the state Assembly.

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Attorney general candidates, from left, Steven Bailey, Eric Early and Dave Jones appear at a debate Wednesday.
Attorney general candidates, from left, Steven Bailey, Eric Early and Dave Jones appear at a debate Wednesday. (Patrick McGreevy / Los Angeles Times)

Three candidates challenging California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra in this year’s election criticized the incumbent for skipping a debate Wednesday and also accused him of neglecting other duties they said are needed to protect public safety.

Becerra was appointed to the post more than a year ago by Gov. Jerry Brown to fill a vacancy created when Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate. In running for election in the June primary, Becerra faces challenges from Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and two Republican attorneys, Steven Bailey and Eric Early.

“The appointed attorney general is absent today,” Jones said. “That’s disappointing, but this is not the first time he has been missing in action.”

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Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks at an Oculus developers conference in San Jose.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks at an Oculus developers conference in San Jose. (Glenn Chapman / AFP/Getty Images)

The lead proponent behind a proposed voter measure that would expand online privacy protections for California consumers has a message for Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg: “Put your money where your mouth is.”

In a letter to Zuckerberg, emailed to the social media company and posted on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, Alastair Mactaggart, chairman of Californians for Consumer Privacy, says he was disappointed to learn Facebook has chosen not to support the privacy ballot campaign — and is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into an attempt to sink privacy advocates’ efforts.

The letter comes as the Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into how a data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, accessed the personal data of 50 million Facebook users, without their knowledge, to help elect President Trump.

A few months before the state Senate confirmed Lucy Dunn’s reappointment to the California Transportation Commission in 2013, she made a political contribution to the president pro tem of the state Senate, whose support was crucial to her staying on the panel.

California Gov. Jerry Brown gave a forceful defense of one of his signature projects Monday night, responding to critics of the escalating costs of the state's high-speed rail program.

"That's bullshit," Brown said, at the outset of a 15-minute speech to California labor leaders at a Sacramento hotel.

Brown said the high-speed rail effort, with a newly escalated cost estimate of $77.3 billion to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco, was a small investment when compared with the scale of the California economy. Other countries such as Spain with much smaller economies, Brown said, have already built major high-speed rail lines.

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  • California Legislature
  • California Democrats
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles)
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

In his final floor session before stepping aside for a new leader, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León urged his colleagues on Monday to reject the suggestion that lawmakers should be “measured” in their approach to governing.

“This moment is fleeting,” De León said of the term limits era of legislating in Sacramento. “Take advantage of this moment and seize it.”

On Wednesday, state Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) will take over as leader of the upper house of the California Legislature. De León, who will leave his post in Sacramento at the end of the year due to term limits, had led the Senate since October 2014. He is the first Latino in California history to hold the position.

  • California Legislature
A lot in the 400 block of East Florence Avenue in Los Angeles was slated for a homeless housing project.
A lot in the 400 block of East Florence Avenue in Los Angeles was slated for a homeless housing project. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A California lawmaker wants to make it easier to build homeless housing across the state and is taking aim at Los Angeles.

Legislation from Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would require cities and counties to approve permanent supportive housing projects for homeless residents anywhere housing is allowed under that local government’s zoning rules.

Assembly Bill 2162 is necessary to remove barriers to housing California’s growing homeless population, which now tops 134,000 people, Chiu said. He’s also planning to make changes to the bill that would block policies, like those in Los Angeles, that allow local elected officials to spike homeless housing in their districts if those officials don’t provide explicit support prior to a vote.

There are fewer than 80 days until the California midterm primaries that might set up Democrats to reclaim control of the House.

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  • State government
State Treasurer John Chiang
State Treasurer John Chiang (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Despite pleas from relatives of those killed in the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, the state retirement board on Monday rejected a proposal by California Treasurer John Chiang to consider divesting from retailers who sell assault weapons.

Chiang’s motion was defeated by the Board of Administration for the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS, with nine members voting in opposition and three in support. Opponents of the motion said divestment would take away their ability as major investors in retail firms to affect store policies on the sale of assault rifles.

“We obviously have a significant problem in this country,” said board member Bill Slaton. But, he added. “We have found engagement is a better alternative in order for us to accomplish something in this arena.”

President Trump’s new attacks over the weekend against the man leading the Russia probe put renewed pressure on California House Republicans already facing a tough reelection campaign.